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Whirligigs by O Henry

Part 5 out of 6

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room at the top of the building. In that chair Georgia
would always sit when she came to the office for him of

As time passed, the Commissioner seemed to grow more
silent, solitary, and reserved. A new phase of mind
developed in him. He could not endure the presence
of a child. Often when a clattering youngster belonging
to one of the clerks would come chattering into the big
business-room adjoining his little apartment, the Com-
missioner would steal softly and close the door. He
would always cross the street to avoid meeting the school-
children when they came dancing along in happy groups
upon the sidewalk, and his firm mouth would close into
a mere line.

It was nearly three months after the rains had washed
the last dead flower-petals from the mound above little
Georgia when the "land-shark" firm of Hamlin and
Avery filed papers upon what they considered the "fattest"
vacancy of the year.

It should not be supposed that all who were termed
"land-sharks" deserved the name. Many of them were
reputable men of good business character. Some of
them could walk into the most august councils of the
State and say: "Gentlemen, we would like to have this,
and that, and matters go thus." But, next to a three
years' drought and the boll-worm, the Actual Settler
hated the Land-shark. The land-shark haunted the
Land Office, where all the land records were kept,
and hunted "vacancies" -- that is, tracts of unappro-
priated public domain, generally invisible upon the
official maps, but actually existing "upon the ground."
The law entitled any one possessing certain State scrip
to file by virtue of same upon any land not previously
legally appropriated. Most of the scrip was now in the
hands of the land-sharks. Thus, at the cost of a few
hundred dollars, they often secured lands worth as many
thousands. Naturally, the search for "vacancies" was

But often -- very often -- the land they thus secured,
though legally "unappropriated," would be occupied
by happy and contented settlers, who had laboured for
years to build up their homes, only to discover that their
titles were worthless, and to receive peremptory notice
to quit. Thus came about the bitter and not unjustifiable
hatred felt by the toiling settlers toward the shrewd and
seldom merciful speculators who so often turned them
forth destitute and homeless from their fruitless labours.
The history of the state teems with their antagonism.
Mr. Land-shark seldom showed his face on "locations"
from which he should have to eject the unfortunate victims
of a monstrously tangled land system, but let his emis-
saxies do the work. There was lead in every cabin,
moulded into balls for him; many of his brothers had
enriched the grass with their blood. The fault of it all
lay far back.

When the state was young, she felt the need of attract-
ing newcomers, and of rewarding those pioneers already
within her borders. Year after year she issued land scrip
-- Headrights, Bounties, Veteran Donations, Confeder-
ates; and to railroads, irrigation companies, colonies,
and tillers of the soil galore. All required of the grantee
was that he or it should have the scrip properly surveyed
upon the public domain by the county or district surveyor,
and the land thus appropriated became the property of
him or it, or his or its heirs and assigns, forever.

In those days -- and here is where the trouble began
- the state's domain was practically inexhaustible, and
the old surveyors, with princely -- yea, even Western
American -- liberality, gave good measure and over-
flowing. Often the jovial man of metes and bounds
would dispense altogether with the tripod and chain.
Mounted on a pony that could cover something near a
"vara" at a step, with a pocket compass to direct his
course, he would trot out a survey by counting the beat
of his pony's hoofs, mark his corners, and write out his
field notes with the complacency produced by an act of
duty well performed. Sometimes -- and who could
blame the surveyor? -- when the pony was "feeling his
oats," he might step a little higher and farther, and in
that case the beneficiary of the scrip might get a thousand
or two more acres in his survey than the scrip called for.
But look at the boundless leagues the state had to spare!
However, no one ever had to complain of the pony under-
stepping. Nearly every old survey in the state con-
tained an excess of land.

In later years, when the state became more populous,
and land values increased, this careless work entailed
incalculable trouble, endless litigation, a period of riotous
land-grabbing, and no little bloodshed. The land-
sharks voraciously attacked these excesses in the old
surveys, and filed upon such portions with new scrip as
unappropriated public domain. Wherever the identi-
fications of the old tracts were vague, and the corners
were not to be clearly established, the Land Office would
recognize the newer locations as valid, and issue title to
the locators. Here was the greatest hardship to be found.
These old surveys, taken from the pick of the land, were
already nearly all occupied by unsuspecting and peaceful
settlers, and thus their titles were demolished, and the
choice was placed before them either to buy their land
over at a double price or to vacate it, with their families
and personal belongings, immediately. Land locators
sprang up by hundreds. The country was held up and
searched for "vacancies" at the point of a compass.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of splendid
acres were wrested from their innocent purchasers and
holders. There began a vast hegira of evicted settlers
in tattered wagons; going nowhere, cursing injustice,
stunned, purposeless, homeless, hopeless. Their children
began to look up to them for bread, and cry.

It was in consequence of these conditions that Hamil-
ton and Avery had filed upon a strip of land about a mile
wide and three miles long, comprising about two thou-
sand acres, it being the excess over complement of the
Elias Denny three-league survey on Chiquito River, in
one of the middle-western counties. This two-thousand-
acre body of land was asserted by them to be vacant land,
and improperly considered a part of the Denny survey.
They based this assertion and their claim upon the land
upon the demonstrated facts that the beginning corner
of the Denny survey was plainly identified; that its field
notes called to run west 5,760 varas, and then called for
Chiquito River; thence it ran south, with the meanders
-- and so on -- and that the Chiquito River was, on the
ground, fully a mile farther west from the point reached
by course and distance. To sum up: there were two
thousand acres of vacant land between the Denny survey
proper and Chiquito River.

One sweltering day in July the Commissioner called
for the papers in connection with this new location.
They were brought, and heaped, a foot deep, upon his desk
-- field notes, statements, sketches, affidavits, connecting
lines-documents of every description that shrewdness
and money could call to the aid of Hamlin and Avery.

The firm was pressing the Commissioner to issue a
patent upon their location. They possesed inside infor-
mation concerning a new railroad that would probably
pass somewhere near this land.

The General Land Office was very still while the Com-
missioner was delving into the heart of the mass of evi-
dence. The pigeons could be heard on the roof of the
old, castle-like building, cooing and fretting. The clerks
were droning everywhere, scarcely pretending to earn
their salaries. Each little sound echoed hollow and loud
from the bare, stone-flagged floors, the plastered walls, and
the iron-joisted ceiling. The impalpable, perpetual lime-
stone dust that never settled, whitened a long streamer of
sunlight that pierced the tattered window-awning.

It seemed that Hamlin and Avery had builded well.
The Denny survey was carelessly made, even for a care-
less period. Its beginning corner was identical with
that of a well-defined old Spanish grant, but its other
calls were sinfully vague. The field notes contained no
other object that survived -- no tree, no natural object
save Chiquito River, and it was a mile wrong there.
According to precedent, the Office would be justified in
giving it its complement by course and distance, and
considering the remainder vacant instead of a mere excess.

The Actual Settler was besieging the office with wild
protests in re. Having the nose of a pointer and the eye
of a hawk for the land-shark, he had observed his myrmi-
dons running the lines upon his ground. Making inquiries,
he learned that the spoiler had attacked his home, and he
left the plough in the furrow and took his pen in hand.

One of the protests the Commissioner read twice. It
was from a woman, a widow, the granddaughter of Elias
Denny himself. She told how her grandfather had sold
most of the survey years before at a trivial price -- land
that was now a principality in extent and value. Her
mother had also sold a part, and she herself had suc-
ceeded to this western portion, along Chiquito River.
Much of it she had been forced to part with in order to
live, and now she owned only about three hundred acres,
on which she had her home. Her letter wound up rather

"I've got eight children, the oldest fifteen years. I
work all day and half the night to till what little land I can
and keep us in clothes and books. I teach my children
too. My neighbours is all poor and has big families.
The drought kills the crops every two or three years and
then we has hard times to get enough to eat. There is
ten families on this land what the land-sharks is trying
to rob us of, and all of them got titles from me. I sold
to them cheap, and they aint paid out yet, but part of
them is, and if their land should be took from them I would
die. My grandfather was an honest man, and he helped
to build up this state, and he taught his children to be
honest, and how could I make it up to them who bought
me? Mr. Commissioner, if you let them land-sharks
take the roof from over my children and the little from
them as they has to live on, whoever again calls this state
great or its government just will have a lie in their

The Commissioner laid this letter aside with a sigh.
Many, many such letters he had received. He had never
been hurt by them, nor had he ever felt that they appealed
to him personally. He was but the state's servant, and
must follow its laws. And yet, somehow, this reflection
did not always eliminate a certain responsible feeling
that hung upon him. Of all the state's officers he was
supremest in his department, not even excepting the
Governor. Broad, general land laws he followed, it was
true, but he had a wide latitude in particular ramifica-
tions. Rather than law, what he followed was Rulings:
Office Rulings and precedents. In the complicated and
new questions that were being engendered by the state's
development the Commissioner's ruling was rarely
appealed from. Even the courts sustained it when its
equity was apparent.

The Commissioner stepped to the door and spoke to a
clerk in the other room -- spoke as he always did, as if
he were addressing a prince of the blood:

"Mr. Weldon, will you be kind enough to ask Mr.
Ashe, the state school-land appraiser, to please come to
my office as soon as convenient?"

Ashe came quickly from the big table where he was
arranging his reports.

"Mr. Ashe," said the Commissioner, "you worked
along the Chiquito River, in Salado Colinty, during your
last trip, I believe. Do you remember anything of the
Elias Denny three-league survey?"

"Yes, sir, I do," the blunt, breezy, surveyor answered.
"I crossed it on my way to Block H, on the north side of
it. The road runs with the Chiquito River, along the
valley. The Denny survey fronts three miles on the

"It is claimed," continued the commissioner, "that
it fails to reach the river by as much as a mile."

The appraiser shrugged his shoulder. He was by birth
and instinct an Actual Settler, and the natural foe of the

"It has always been considered to extend to the river,"
he said, dryly.

"But that is not the point I desired to discuss," said the
Commissioner. "What kind of country is this valley
portion of (let us say, then) the Denny tract?"

The spirit of the Actual Settler beamed in Ashe's face.

"Beautiful," he said, with enthusiasm. "Valley as
level as this floor, with just a little swell on, like the sea,
and rich as cream. Just enough brakes to shelter the
cattle in winter. Black loamy soil for six feet, and then
clay. Holds water. A dozen nice little houses on it,
with windmills and gardens. People pretty poor, I
guess -- too far from market -- but comfortable. Never
saw so many kids in my life."

"They raise flocks?" inquired the Commissioner.

"Ho, ho! I mean two-legged kids," lauched the
surveyor; "two-legged, and bare-legged, and tow-headed."

"Children! oh, children!" mused the Commissioner,
as though a new view had opened to him; "they raise

"It's a lonesome country, Commissioner," said the
surveyor. "Can you blame 'em?"

"I suppose," continued the Commissioner, slowly, as
one carefully pursues deductions from a new, stupendous
theory, "not all of them are tow-headed. It would not
be unreasonable, Mr. Ashe, I conjecture, to believe that
a portion of them have brown, or even black, hair."

"Brown and black, sure," said Ashe; "also red."

"No doubt," said the Commissioner. "Well, I thank
you for your courtesy in informing me, Mr. Ashe. I will
not detain you any longer from your duties."

Later, in the afternoon, came Hamlin and Avery, big,
handsome, genial, sauntering men, clothed in white duck
and low-cut shoes. They permeated the whole office
with an aura of debonair prosperity. They passed among
the clerks and left a wake of abbreviated given names and
fat brown cigars.

These were the aristocracy of the land-sharks, who
went in for big things. Full of serene confidence in them-
selves, there was no corporation, no syndicate, no rail-
road company or attorney general too big for them to
tackle. The peculiar smoke of their rare, fat brown cigars
was to be perceived in the sanctum of every department
of state, in every committee-room of the Legislature, in
every bank parlour and every private caucus-room in
the state Capital. Always pleasant, never in a hurry, in
seeming to possess unlimited leisure, people wondered
when they gave their attention to the many audacious
enterprises in which they were knnown to be engaged.

By and by the two dropped carelessly into the Com-
missioner's room and reclined lazily in the big, leather-
upholstered arm-chairs. They drawled a good-natured
complaint of the weather, and Hamlin told the Com-
missioner an excellent story he had amassed that morn-
ing from the Secretary of State.

But the Commissioner knew why they were there. He
had half promised to render a decision that day upon
their location.

The chief clerk now brought in a batch of duplicate
certificates for the Commissioner to sign. As he traced
his sprawling signature, "Hollis Summerfield, Comr.
Genl. Land Office," on each one, the chief clerk stood,
deftly removing them and applying the blotter.

"I notice," said the chief clerk, "you've been going
through that Salado County location. Kampfer is mak-
ing a new map of Salado, and I believe is platting in that
section of the county now."

"I will see it," said the Comissioner. A few moments
later he went to the draughtsmen's room.

As he entered he saw five or six of the draughtsmen
grouped about Kampfer's desk, gargling away at each
other in pectoral German, and gazing at something there-
upon. At the Commissioner's approach they scattered
to their several places. Kampfer, a wizened little Ger-
man, with long, frizzled ringlets and a watery eye, began
to stammer forth some sort of an apology, the Commis-
sioner thought, for the congregation of his fellows about
his desk.

"Never mind,' said the Commissioner, "I wish to
see the map you are making"; and, passing around the
old German, seated himself upon the high draughtsman's
stool. Kampfer continued to break English in trving to

"Herr Gommissioner, I assure you blenty sat I haf
not it bremeditated -- sat it wass -- sat it itself make.
Look you! from se field notes wass it blatted -- blease
to observe se calls: South, 10 degrees west 050 varas;
south, 10 degrees east 300 varas; south, 100; south, 9
west, 200; south, 40 degrees west 400 -- and so on.
Herr Gommissioner, nefer would I have -- "

The Commissioner raised one white hand, silently,
Kampfer dropped his pipe and fled.

With a hand at each side of his face, and his elbows
resting upon the desk, the Commissioner sat staring at
the map which was spread and fastened there -- staring
at the sweet and living profile of little Georgia drawn
thereupon -- at her face, pensive, delicate, and infantile,
outlined in a perfect likeness.

When his mind at length came to inquire into the rea-
son of it, he saw that it must have been, as Kampfer had
said, unpremeditated. The old draughtsman had been
platting in the Elias Denny survey, and Georgia's likeness,
striking though it was, was formed by nothing more than
the meanders of Chiquito River. Indeed, Kampfer's
blotter, whereon his preliminary work was done, showed
the laborious tracings of the calls and the countless
pricks of the compasses. Then, over his faint pencilling,
Kampfer had drawn in India ink with a full, firm pen the
similitude of Chiquito River, and forth had blossomed
mysteriously the dainty, pathetic profile of the child.

The Commissioner sat for half an hour with his face
in his hands, gazing downward, and none dared approach
him. Then he arose and walked out. In the business
office he paused long enough to ask that the Denny file
be brought to his desk.

He found Hamlin and Avery still reclining in their
chairs, apparently oblivious of business. They were
lazily discussing summer opera, it being, their habit --
perhaps their pride also -- to appear supernaturally
indifferent whenever they stood with large interests
imperilled. And they stood to win more on this stake
than most people knew. They possessed inside infor-
mation to the effect that a new railroad would, within a
year, split this very Chiquito River valley and send land
values ballooning all along its route. A dollar under
thirty thousand profit on this location, if it should hold
good, would be a loss to their expectations. So, while
they chatted lightly and waited for the Commissioner
to open the subject, there was a quick, sidelong sparkle
in their eyes, evincing a desire to read their title clear
to those fair acres on the Chiquito.

A clerk brought in the file. The Commissioner seated
himself and wrote upon it in red ink. Then he rose to
his feet and stood for a while looking straight out of the
window. The Land Office capped the summit of a bold
hill. The eyes of the Commissioner passed over the
roofs of many houses set in a packing of deep green, the
whole checkered by strips of blinding white streets. The
horizon, where his gaze was focussed, swelled to a fair
wooded eminence flecked with faint dots of shining white.
There was the cemetery, where lay many who were forgot-
ten, and a few who had not lived in vain. And one lay
there, occupying very small space, whose childish heart
had been large enough to desire, while near its last beats,
good to others. The Commissioner's lips moved slightly
as he whispered to himself: "It was her last will and
testament, and I have neglected it so long!"

The big brown cigars of Hamlin and Avery were fireless,
but they still gripped them between their teeth and waited,
while they marvelled at the absent expression upon the
Commissioner's face.

By and by he spoke suddenly and promptly.

"Gentlemen, I have just indorsed the Elias Denny
survey for patenting. This office will not regard your
location upon a part of it as legal." He paused a moment,
and then, extending his hand as those dear old-time ones
used to do in debate, he enunciated the spirit of that
Ruling that subsequently drove the land-sharks to the
wall, and placed the seal of peace and security over the
doors of ten thousand homes.

"And, furthermore," he continued, with a clear, soft
light upon his face, "it may interest you to know that from
this time on this office will consider that when a survey
of land made by virtue of a certificate granted by this
state to the men who wrested it from the wilderness and
the savage -- made in good faith, settled in good faith,
and left in good faith to their children or innocent pur-
chasers -- when such a survey, although overrunning
its complement, shall call for any natural object visible
to the eye of man, to that object it shall hold, and be good
and valid. And the children of this state shall lie down to
sleep at night, and rumours of disturbers of title shall not
disquiet them. For," concluded the Commissioner,
"of such is the Kingdom of Heaven."

In the silence that followed, a laugh floated up from
the patent-room below. The man who carried down the
Denny file was exhibiting it among the clerks.

"Look here," he said, delightedly, "the old man has
forgotten his name. He's written 'Patent to original
grantee,' and signed it 'Georgia Summerfield, Comr."'

The speech of the Commissioner rebounded lightly
from the impregnable Hamlin and Avery. They smiled,
rose gracefully, spoke of the baseball team, and argued
feelingly that quite a perceptible breeze had Arisen from
the east. They lit fresh fat brown cigars, and drifted
courteously away. But later they made another tiger-
spring for their quarry in the courts. But the courts,
according to reports in the papers, "coolly roasted
them" (a remarkable performance, suggestive of
liquid-air didoes), and sustained the Commissioner's

And this Ruling itself grew to be a Precedent, and the
Actual Settler framed it, and taught his children to spell
from it, and there was sound sleep o' nights from the pines
to the sage-brush, and from the chaparral to the great
brown river of the north.

But I think, and I am sure the Commissioner never
thought otherwise, that whether Kampfer was a snuffy
old instrument of destiny, or whether the meanders of the
Chiquito accidentally platted themselves into that memo-
rable sweet profile or not, there was brought about "some-
thing good for a whole lot of children," and the result
ought to be called "Georgia's Ruling."


Alas for the man and for the artist with the shifting
point of perspective! Life shall be a confusion of ways
to the one; the landscape shall rise up and confound the
other. Take the case of Lorison. At one time he
appeared to himself to be the feeblest of fools; at another
he conceived that he followed ideals so fine that the world
was not yet ready to accept them. During one mood he
cursed his folly; possessed by the other, he bore himself
with a serene grandeur akin to greatness: in neither did
he attain the perspective.

Generations before, the name had been "Larsen."
His race had bequeathed him its fine-strung, melancholy
temperament, its saving balance of thrift and industry.

From his point of perspective he saw himself an outcast
from society, forever to be a shady skulker along the
ragged edge of respectability; a denizen des trois-quartz
de monde, that pathetic spheroid lying between the haut
and the demi, whose inhabitants envy each of their neigh-
bours, and are scorned by both. He was self-condemned
to this opinion, as he was self-exiled, through it, to this
quaint Southern city a thousand miles from his former
home. Here he had dwelt for longer than a year, know-
ing but few, keeping in a subjective world of shadows
which was invaded at times by the perplexing bulks of
jarring realities. Then he fell in love with a girl whom
he met in a cheap restaurant, and his story begins.

The Rue Chartres, in New Orleans, is a street of ghosts.
It lies in the quarter where the Frenchman, in his prime,
set up his translated pride and glory; where, also, the
arrogant don had swaggered, and dreamed of gold and
grants and ladies' gloves. Every flagstone has its grooves
worn by footsteps going royally to the wooing and the
fighting. Every house has a princely heartbreak; each
doorway its untold tale of gallant promise and slow decay.

By night the Rue Chartres is now but a murky fissure,
from which the groping wayfarer sees, flung against the
sky, the tangled filigree of Moorish iron balconies. Ths
old houses of monsieur stand yet, indomitable against the
century, but their essence is gone. The street is one of
ghosts to whosoever can see them.

A faint heartbeat of the street's ancient glory still sur-
vives in a corner occupied by the Café Carabine d'Or.
Once men gathered there to plot against kings, and to
warn presidents. They do so yet, but they are not the
same kind of men. A brass button will scatter these;
those would have set their faces against an army. Above
the door hangs the sign board, upon which has been
depicted a vast animal of unfamiliar species. In the act
of firing upon this monster is represented an unobtrusive
human levelling an obtrusive gun, once the colour of
bright gold. Now the legend above the picture is faded
beyond conjecture; the gun's relation to the title is a
matter of faith; the menaced animal, wearied of the long
aim of the hunter, has resolved itself into a shapeless blot.

The place is known as "Antonio's," as the name, white
upon the red-lit transparency, and gilt upon the windows,
attests. There is a promise in "Antonio"; a justifiable
expectancy of savoury things in oil and pepper and wine,
and perhaps an angel's whisper of garlic. But the rest
of the name is "O'Riley." Antonio O'Riley!

The Carabine d'Or is an ignominious ghost of the Rue
Chartres. The café where Bienville and Conti dined,
where a prince has broken bread, is become a "family

Its customers are working men and women, almost to
a unit. Occasionally you will see chorus girls from the
cheaper theatres, and men who follow avocations sub-
ject to quick vicissitudes; but at Antonio's -- name rich
in Bohemian promise, but tame in fulfillment -- manners
debonair and gay are toned down to the "family" stand-
ard. Should you light a cigarette, mine host will touch
you on the "arrum" and remind you that the proprieties
are menaced. "Antonio" entices and beguiles from fiery
legend without, but "O'Riley" teaches decorum within.

It was at this restaurant that Lorison first saw the girl.
A flashy fellow with a predatory eye had followed her in,
and had advanced to take the other chair at the little table
where she stopped, but Lorison slipped into the seat before
him. Their acquaintance began, and grew, and how for
two months they had sat at the same table each evening,
not meeting by appointment, but as if by a series of
fortuitous and happy accidents. After dining, they
would take a walk together in one of the little city parks,
or among the panoramic markets where exhibits a con-
tinuous vaudeville of sights and sounds. Always at eight
o'clock their steps led them to a certain street corner,
where she prettily but firmly bade him good night and
left him. "I do not live far from here," she frequently
said, "and you must let me go the rest of the way alone."

But now Lorison had discovered that he wanted to go
the rest of the way with her, or happiness would depart,
leaving, him on a very lonely corner of life. And at the
same time that he made the discovery, the secret of his
banishment from the society of the good laid its finger
in his face and told him it must not be.

Man is too thoroughly an egoist not to be also an egotist;
if he love, the object shall know it. During a lifetime he
may conceal it through stress of expediency and honour,
but it shall bubble from his dying lips, though it disrupt
a neighbourhood. It is known, however, that most men
do not wait so long to disclose their passion. In the case
of Lorison, his particular ethics positively forbade him
to declare his sentiments, but he must needs dally with
the subject, and woo by innuendo at least.

On this night, after the usual meal at the Carabine
d'Or, he strolled with his companion down the dim old
street toward the river

The Rue Chartres perishes in the old Place d'Armes.
The ancient Cabildo, where Spanish justice fell like hail,
faces it, and the Cathedral, another provincial ghost,
overlooks it. Its centre is a little, iron-railed park of
flowers and immaculate gravelled walks, where citizens
take the air of evenings. Pedestalled high above it, the
general sits his cavorting steed, with his face turned
stonily down the river toward English Turn, whence
come no more Britons to bombard his cotton bales.

Often the two sat in this square, but to-night Lorison
guided her past the stone-stepped gate, and still riverward.
As they walked, he smiled to himself to think that all
he knew of her -- except that be loved her -- was her
name, Norah Greenway, and that she lived with her
brother. They had talked about everything except
themselves. Perhaps her reticence had been caused by his.

They came, at length, upon the levee, and sat upon a
great, prostrate beam. The air was pungent with the
dust of commerce. The great river slipped yellowly
past. Across it Algiers lay, a longitudinous black bulk
against a vibrant electric haze sprinkled with exact stars.

The girl was young and of the piquant order. A certain
bright melancholy pervaded her; she possessed an
untarnished, pale prettiness doomed to please. Her
voice, when she spoke, dwarfed her theme. It was the
voice capable of investing little subjects with a large
interest. She sat at ease, bestowing her skirts with the
little womanly touch, serene as if the begrimed pier were
a summer garden. Lorison poked the rotting boards
with his cane.

He began by telling her that he was in love with some
one to whom he durst not speak of it. "And why not?"
she asked, accepting swiftly his fatuous presentation of
a third person of straw. "My place in the world," he
answered, "is none to ask a woman to share. I am an
outcast from honest people; I am wrongly accused of
one crime, and am, I believe, guilty of another."

Thence he plunged into the story of his abdication from
society. The story, pruned of his moral philosophy,
deserves no more than the slightest touch. It is no new
tale, that of the gambler's declension. During one
night's sitting he lost, and then had imperilled a certain
amount of his employer's money, which, by accident, he
carried with him. He continued to lose, to the last wager,
and then began to gain, leaving the game winner to a
somewhat formidable sum. The same night his
employer's safe was robbed. A search was had; the
winnings of Lorison were found in his room, their total
forming an accusative nearness to the sum purloined.
He was taken, tried and, through incomplete evidence,
released, smutched with the sinister devoirs of a dis-
agreeing jury.

"It is not in the unjust accusation," he said to the girl,
"that my burden lies, but in the knowledge that from the
moment I staked the first dollar of the firm's money I
was a criminal -- no matter whether I lost or won. You
see why it is impossible for me to speak of love to her."

"It is a sad thing," said Norah, after a little pause.
"to think what very good people there are in the world."

"Good?" said Lorison.

"I was thinking of this superior person whom you
say you love. She must be a very poor sort of creature."

"I do not understand."

"Nearly," she continued, "as poor a sort of creature
as yourself."

"You do not understand," said Lorison, removing his
hat and sweeping back his fine, light hair. "Suppose
she loved me in return, and were willing to marry me.
Think, if you can, what would follow. Never a day
Would pass but she would be reminded of her sacrifice.
I would read a condescension in her smile, a pity even in
her affection, that would madden me. No. The thing
would stand between us forever. Only equals should
mate. I could never ask her to come down upon my
lower plane."

An arc light faintly shone upon Lorison's face. An
illumination from within also pervaded it. The girl
saw the rapt, ascetic look; it was the face either of Sir
Galahad or Sir Fool.

"Quite starlike," she said, "is this unapproachable
angel. Really too high to be grasped."

"By me, yes."

She faced him suddenly. "My dear friend, would you
prefer your star fallen?" Lorison made a wide gesture.

"You push me to the bald fact," he declared; "you
are not in sympathy with my argument. But I will
answer you so. If I could reach my particular star, to
drag it down, I would not do it; but if it were fallen, I
would pick it up, and thank Heaven for the privilege."

They were silent for some minutes. Norah shivered,
and thrust her hands deep into the pockets of her jacket.
Lorison uttered a remorseful exclamation.

"I'm not cold," she said. "I was just thinking. I
ought to tell you something. You have selected a strange
confidante. But you cannot expect a chance acquain-
ance, picked up in a doubtful restaurant, to be an angel."

"Norah!" cried Lorison.

"Let me go on. You have told me about yourself.
We have been such good friends. I must tell you now
what I never wanted you to know. I am -- worse than
you are. I was on the stage . . . I sang in the
chorus . . . I was pretty bad, I guess . . . I
stole diamonds from the prima donna . . . they
arrested me . . . I gave most of them up, and they
let me go . . . I drank wine every night . . . a
great deal . . . I was very wicked, but -- "

Lorison knelt quickly by her side and took her

"Dear Norah!" he said, exultantly. "It is you, it is
you I love! You never guessed it, did you? 'Tis you
I meant all the time. Now I can speak. Let me make
you forget the past. We have both suffered; let us shut
out the world, and live for each other. Norah, do you
hear me say I love you?"

"In spite of -- "

"Rather say because of it. You have come out of
your past noble and good. Your heart is an angel's,
Give it to me."

"A little while ago you feared the future too much to
even speak."

"But for you; not for myself. Can you love me?"

She cast herself, wildly sobbing, upon his breast.

"Better than life -- than truth itself -- than every-

"And my own past," said Lorison, with a note of
solicitude -- "can you forgive and -- "

"I answered you that," she whispered, "when I told
you I loved you." She leaned away, and looked thought-
fully at him. "If I had not told you about myself, would
you have -- would you -- "

"No," he interrupted; "I would never have let you
know I loved you. I would never have asked you this
-- Norah, will you be my wife?"

She wept again.

"Oh, believe me; I am good now -- I am no longer
wicked! I will be the best wife in the world. Don't
think I am -- bad any more. If you do I shall die, I
shall die!"

While he was consoling, her, she brightened up, eager
and impetuous. "Will vou marry me to-night?" she
said. "Will you prove it that way. I have a reason for
wishing it to be to-night. Will you?"

Of one of two things was this exceeding frankness the
outcome: either of importunate brazenness or of utter
innocence. The lover's perspective contained only the

"The sooner," said Lorison, "the happier I shall be."

"What is there to do?" she asked. "What do you
have to get? Come! You should know."

Her energy stirred the dreamer to action.

"A city directory first," he cried, gayly, "to find where
the man lives who gives licenses to happiness. We will
go together and rout him out. Cabs, cars, policemen,
telephones and ministers shall aid us."

"Father Rogan shall marry us," said the girl, with
ardour. "I will take you to him."

An hour later the two stood at the open doorway of an
immense, gloomy brick building in a narrow and lonely
street. The license was tight in Norah's hand.

"Wait here a moment," she said, "till I find Father

She plunged into the black hallway, and the lover was
left standing, as it were, on one leg, outside. His impa-
tience was not greatly taxed. Gazing curiously into
what seemed the hallway to Erebus, he was presently
reassured by a stream of light that bisected the darkness,
far down the passage. Then he heard her call, and
fluttered lampward, like the moth. She beckoned him
through a doorway into the room whence emanated the
light. The room was bare of nearly everything except
books, which had subjugated all its space. Here and
there little spots of territory had been reconquered. An
elderly, bald man, with a superlatively calm, remote eye,
stood by a table with a book in his hand, his finger still
marking a page. His dress was sombre and appertained
to a religious order. His eye denoted an acquaintance
with the perspective.

"Father Rogan," said Norah, "this is he."

"The two of ye," said Father Rogan, "want to get

They did not deny it. He married them. The cere-
mony was quickly done. One who could have witnessed
it, and felt its scope, might have trembled at the terrible
inadequacy of it to rise to the dignity of its endless chain
of results.

Afterward the priest spake briefly, as if by rote, of
certain other civil and legal addenda that either might or
should, at a later time, cap the ceremony. Lorison
tendered a fee, which was declined, and before the door
closed after the departing couple Father Rogan's book
popped open again where his finger marked it.

In the dark hall Norah whirled and clung to her com-
panion, tearful.

"Will you never, never be sorry?"

At last she was reassured.

At the first light they reached upon the street, she asked
the time, just as she had each night. Lorison looked at
his watch. Half-past eight.

Lorison thought it was from habit that she guided their
steps toward the corner where they always parted. But,
arrived there, she hesitated, and then released his arm.
A drug store stood on the corner; its bright, soft light
shone upon them.

"Please leave me here as usual to-night," said Norah,
sweetly. "I must -- I would rather you would. You
will not object? At six to-morrow evening I will meet
you at Antonio's. I want to sit with vou there once more.
And then -- I will go where you say." She gave him a
bewildering, bright smile, and walked swiftly away.

Surely it needed all the strength of her charm to carry
off this astounding behaviour. It was no discredit to
Lorison's strength of mind that his head began to whirl.
Pocketing his hands, he rambled vacuously over to the
druggist's windows, and began assiduously to spell over
the names of the patent medicines therein displayed.

As soon as be had recovered his wits, he proceeded
along the street in an aimless fashion. After drifting for
two or three squares, he flowed into a somewhat more
pretentious thoroughfare, a way much frequented by him
in his solitary ramblings. For here was a row of slops
devoted to traffic in goods of the widest range of choice --
handiworks of art, skill and fancy, products of nature
and labour from every zone.

Here, for a time, he loitered among the conspicuous
windows, where was set, emphasized bv congested floods
of light, the cunningest spoil of the interiors. There
were few passers, and of this Lorison was glad. He was
not of the world. For a long time he had touched his
fellow man only at the gear of a levelled cog-wheel -- at
right angles, and upon a different axis. He had dropped
into a distinctly new orbit. The stroke of ill fortune had
acted upon him, in effect, as a blow delivered upon the
apex of a certain ingenious toy, the musical top, which-
when thus buffeted while spinning, gives forth, with
scarcely retarded motion, a complete change of key and

Strolling along the pacific avenue, he experienced
singular, supernatural calm, accompanied by an unusual a
activity of brain. Reflecting upon recent affairs, be
assured himself of his happiness in having won for a bride
the one he had so greatly desired, yet he wondered mildly
at his dearth of active emotion. Her strange behaviour
in abandoning him without valid excuse on his bridal eve
aroused in him only a vague and curious speculation.
Again, he found himself contemplating, with complaisant
serenity, the incidents of her somewhat lively career. His
perspective seemed to have been queerly shifted.

As he stood before a window near a corner, his ears
were assailed by a waxing clamour and commotion. He
stood close to the window to allow passage to the cause
of the hubbub -- a procession of human beings, which
rounded the corner aid headed in his direction. He
perceived a salient hue of blue and a glitter of brass about
a central figure of dazzling white and silver, and a ragged
wake of black, bobbing figures.

Two ponderous policemen Were conducting between
them a woman dressed as if for the stage, in a short, white,
satiny skirt reaching to the knees, pink stockings, and a
sort of sleeveless bodice bright with relucent, armour-like
scales. Upon her curly, light hair was perched, at a
rollicking angle, a shining tin helmet. The costume was
to be instantly recognized as one of those amazing con-
ceptions to which competition has harried the inventors
of the spectacular ballet. One of the officers bore a long
cloak upon his axm, which, doubtless, had been intended
to veil the I candid attractions of their effulgent prisoner,
but, for some reason, it had not been called into use, to
the vociferous delight of the tail of the procession.

Compelled by a sudden and vigorous movement of the
woman, the parade halted before the window by which
Lorison stood. He saw that she was young, and, at the
first glance, was deceived by a sophistical prettiness of her
face, which waned before a more judicious scrutiny.
Her look was bold and reckless, and upon her countenance,
where yet the contours of youth survived, were the finger-
marks of old age's credentialed courier, Late Hours.

The young woman fixed her unshrinking gaze upon
Lorison, and called to him in the voice of the wronged
heroine in straits:

"Say! You look like a good fellow; come and put up
the bail, won't you? I've done nothing to get pinched
for. It's all a mistake. See how they're treating me!
You won't be sorry, if you'll help me out of this. Think
of your sister or your girl being dragged along the streets
this way! I say, come along now, like a good fellow."

It may be that Lorison, in spite of the unconvincing
bathos of this appeal, showed a sympathetic face, for one
of the officers left the woman's side, and went over to

"It's all right, Sir," he said, in a husky, confidential
tone; "she's the right party. We took her after the first
act at the Green Light Theatre, on a wire from the chief
of police of Chicago. It's only a square or two to the
station. Her rig's pretty bad, but she refused to change
clothes -- or, rather," added the officer, with a smile,
"to put on some. I thought I'd explain matters to
you so you wouldn't think she was being imposed

"What is the charge?" asked Lorison.

"Grand larceny. Diamonds. Her husband is a
jeweller in Chicago. She cleaned his show case of the
sparklers, and skipped with a comic-opera troupe."

The policeman, perceiving that the interest of the entire
group of spectators was centred upon himself and Lorison
-- their conference being regarded as a possible new com-
plication -- was fain to prolong the situation -- which
reflected his own importance -- by a little afterpiece of
philosophical comment.

"A gentleman like you, Sir," he went on affably,
"would never notice it, but it comes in my line to observe
what an immense amount of trouble is made by that com-
bination -- I mean the stage, diamonds and light-headed
women who aren't satisfied with good homes. I tell
you, Sir, a man these days and nights wants to know what
his women folks are up to."

The policeman smiled a good night, and returned to
the side of his charge, who had been intently watching
Lorison's face during the conversation, no doubt for
some indication of his intention to render succour. Now,
at the failure of the sign, and at the movement made to
continue the ignominious progress, she abandoned hope,
and addressed him thus, pointedly:

"You damn chalk-faced quitter! You was thinking
of giving me a hand, but you let the cop talk you out of
it the first word. You're a dandy to tie to. Say, if you
ever get a girl, she'll have a picnic. Won't she work
you to the queen's taste! Oh, my!" She concluded
with a taunting, shrill laugh that rasped Lorison like a
saw. The policemen urged her forward; the delighted
train of gaping followers closed up the rear; and the
captive Amazon, accepting her fate, extended the scope
of her maledictions so that none in hearing might seem
to be slighted.

Then there came upon Lorison an overwhelming
revulsion of his perspective. It may be that he had
been ripe for it, that the abnormal condition of mind in
which he had for so long existed was already about to
revert to its balance; however, it is certain that the events
of the last few minutes had furnished the channel, if not
the impetus, for the change.

The initial determining influence had been so small
a thing as the fact and manner of his having been
approached by the officer. That agent had, by the style
of his accost, restored the loiterer to his former place in
society. In an instant he had been transformed from
a somewhat rancid prowler along the fishy side streets of
gentility into an honest gentleman, with whom even so
lordly a guardian of the peace might agreeably exchange
the compliments.

This, then, first broke the spell, and set thrilling in him
a resurrected longing for the fellowship of his kind, and
the rewards of the virtuous. To what end, he vehemently
asked himself, was this fanciful self-accusation, this
empty renunciation, this moral squeamishness through
which he had been led to abandon what was his heritage
in life, and not beyond his deserts? Technically, he was
uncondemned; his sole guilty spot was in thought rather
than deed, and cognizance of it unshared by others. For
what good, moral or sentimental, did he slink, retreating
like the hedgehog from his own shadow, to and fro in this
musty Bohemia that lacked even the picturesque?

But the thing that struck home and set him raging was
the part played by the Amazonian prisoner. To the
counterpart of that astounding belligerent -- identical
at least, in the way of experience -- to one, by her own
confession, thus far fallen, had he, not three hours since,
been united in marriage. How desirable and natural it
had seemed to him then, and how monstrous it seemed
now! How the words of diamond thief number two yet
burned in his ears: "If you ever get a cirl, she'll have a
picnic. What did that that this women instinc-
tively knew him for one they could hoodwink? Still again,
there reverberated the policeman's sapient contribution
to his agony: "A man these days and nights wants to
know what his women folks are up to." Oh, yes, he had
been a fool; he had looked at things from the wrong

But the wildest note in all the clamour was struck by
pain's forefinger, jealousy. Now, at least, he felt that
keenest sting -- a mounting love unworthily bestowed.
Whatever she might be, he loved her; he bore in his own
breast his doom. A grating, comic flavour to his pre-
dicament struck him suddenly, and he laughed creakingly
as he swung down the echoing pavement. An impetuous
desire to act, to battle with his fate, seized him. He
stopped upon his heel, and smote his palms together
triumphantly. His wife was -- where? But there was
a tangible link; an outlet more or less navigable, through
which his derelict ship of matrimony might yet be safely
towed -- the priest!

Like all imaginative men with pliable natures, Lorison
was, when thoroughly stirred, apt to become tempest-
uous. With a high and stubborn indignation upon him,
be retraced his steps to the intersecting street by which
he had come. Down this he hurried to the corner where
he had parted with -- an astringent grimace tinctured the
thought -- his wife. Thence still back he harked, follow-
ing through an unfamiliar district his stimulated recollec-
tions of the way they had come from that preposterous
wedding. Many times he went abroad, and nosed his
way back to, the trail, furious.

At last, when he reached the dark, calamitous building
in which his madness had culminated, and found the
black hallway, he dashed down it, perceiving no light
or sound. But he raised his voice, hailing loudly; reckless
of everything but that he should find the old mischief-
maker with the eyes that looked too far awav to see the
disaster he had wrought. The door opened, and in the
stream of light Father Rogan stood, his book in hand,
with his finger marking the place.

"Ah!" cried Lorison. "You are the man I want. I
had a wife of you a few hours ago. I would not trouble
you, but I neglected to note how it was done. Will you
oblige me with the information whether the business is
beyond remedy?"

"Come inside," said the priest; "there are other lodgers
in the house, who might prefer sleep to even a gratified

Lorison entered the room and took the chair offered
him. The priest's eyes looked a courteous interrogation.

"I must apologize again," said the young man, "for so
soon intruding upon you with my marital infelicities,
but, as my wife has neglected to furnish me with her
address, I am deprived of the legitimate recourse of a
family row."

"I am quite a plain man," said Father Rogan, pleas-
antly; "but I do not see how I am to ask you questions."

"Pardon my indirectness," said Lorison; "I will ask
one. In this room to-night you pronounced me to be a
husband. You afterward spoke of additional rites or
performances that either should or could be effected. I
paid little attention to your words then, but I am hungry
to hear them repeated now. As matters stand, am I
married past all help?"

"You are as legally and as firmly bound," said the
priest, "as though it had been done in a cathedral, in the
presence of thousands. The additional observances I
referred to are not necessary to the strictest legality of the
act, but were advised as a precaution for the future --
for convenience of proof in such contingencies as wills,
inheritances and the like."

Lorison laughed harshly.

"Many thanks," he said. "Then there is no mistake,
and I am the happy benedict. I suppose I should go
stand upon the bridal corner, and when my wife gets
through walking the streets she will look me up."

Father Rogan regarded him calmly.

"My son," he said, "when a man and woman come to
me to be married I always marry them. I do this for the
sake of other people whom they might go away and marry
if they did not marry each other. As you see, I do not
seek your confidence; but your case seems to me to be
one not altogether devoid of interest. Very few marriages
that have come to my notice have brought such well-
expressed regret within so short a time. I will hazard
one question: were you not under the impression
that you loved the lady you married, at the time you
did so;"

"Loved her!" cried Lorison, wildly. "Never so well
as now, though she told me she deceived and sinned and
stole. Never more than now, when, perhaps, she is
laughing at the fool she cajoled and left, with scarcely a
word, to return to God only knows what particular line
of her former folly."

Father Rooan answered nothing. During the silence
that succeeded, he sat with a quiet expectation beaming
in his full, lambent eye.

"If you would listen -- " began Lorison. The
priest held up his hand.

"As I hoped," he said. "I thought you would trust
me. Wait but a moment." He brought a long clay
pipe, filled and lighted it.

"Now, my son," he said.

Lorison poured a twelve month's accumulated con-
fidence into Father Rogan's ear. He told all; not sparing
himself or omitting the facts of his past, the events of the
night, or his disturbing conjectures and fears.

"The main point," said the priest, when he had con-
cluded, "seems to me to be this -- are you reasonably
sure that you love this woman whom you have married?"

"Why," exclaimed Lorisoii, rising impulsively to his
feet - "why should I deny it? But look at me -- am
fish, flesh or fowl? That is the main point to me,
assure you."

"I understand you," said the priest, also risino,, and
laying down his pipe. "The situation is one that has
taxed the endurance of much older men than you -- in
fact, especially much older men than you. I will try to
relieve you from it, and this night. You shall see for
yourself into exactly what predicament you have fallen,
and how you shall, possibly, be extricated. There is no
evidence so credible as that of the eyesight."

Father Rogan moved about the room, and donned a
soft black hat. Buttoning his coat to his throat, he
laid his hand on the doorknob. "Let us walk,"
he said.

The two went out upon the street. The priest turned
his face down it, and Lorison walked with him through a
squalid district, where the houses loomed, awry and
desoiate-looking, high above them. Presently they turned
into a less dismal side street, where the houses were smaller,
and, though hinting of the most meagre comfort, lacked
the concentrated wretchedness of the more populous

At a segregated, two-story house Father Rogan halted,
and mounted the steps with the confidence of a familiar
visitor. He ushered Lorison into a narrow hallway,
faintly lighted by a cobwebbed hanging lamp. Almost
immediately a door to the right opened and a dingy Irish-
woman protruded her head.

"Good evening to ye, Mistress Geehan," said the
priest, unconsciously, it seemed, falling into a delicately
flavoured brogue. "And is it yourself can tell me if
Norah has gone out again, the night, maybe?"

"Oh, it's yer blissid reverence! Sure and I can tell
ye the same. The purty darlin' wint out, as usual, but a
bit later. And she says: 'Mother Geehan,' says she, 'it's
me last noight out, praise the saints, this noight is!' And,
oh, yer reverence, the swate, beautiful drame of a dress she
had this toime! White satin and silk and ribbons, and
lace about the neck and arrums -- 'twas a sin, yer
reverence, the gold was spint upon it."

The priest heard Lorison catch his breath painfully,
and a faint smile flickered across his own clean-cut

"Well, then, Mistress Geehan," said he, "I'll just
step upstairs and see the bit boy for a minute, and I'll
take this Gentleman up with me."

"He's awake, thin," said the woman. 'I've just
come down from sitting wid him the last hour, tilling him
fine shtories of ould County Tyrone. 'Tis a greedy gos-
soon, it is, yer riverence, for me shtories."

"Small the doubt," said Father Rogan. "There's no
rocking would put him to slape the quicker, I'm thinking."

Amid the woman's shrill protest against the retort, the
two men ascended the steep stairway. The priest pushed
open the door of a room near its top.

"Is that you already, sister?" drawled a sweet, childish
voice from the darkness.

"It's only ould Father Denny come to see ye, darlin';
and a foine gentleman I've brought to make ye a gr-r-and
call. And ye resaves us fast aslape in bed! Shame on
yez manners!"

"Oh, Father Denny, is that you? I'm glad. And
will you light the lamp, please? It's on the table by the
door. And quit talking like Mother Geehan, Father

The priest lit the lamp, and Lorison saw a tiny, towsled-
haired boy, with a thin, delicate face, sitting up in a small
bed in a corner. Quickly, also, his rapid glance con-
sidered the room and its contents. It was furnished with
more than comfort, and its adornments plainly indicated
a woman's discerning taste. An open door beyond
revealed the blackness of an adjoining room's interior.

The boy clutched both of Father Rogan's hands. "I'm
so glad you came," he said; "but why did you come in
the night? Did sister send you?"

"Off wid ye! Am I to be sint about, at me age, as
was Terence McShane, of Ballymahone? I come on me
own r-r-responsibility."

Lorison had also advanced to the boy's bedside. He
was fond of children; and the wee fellow, laving himself
down to sleep alone ill that dark room, stirred-his heart.

"Aren't you afraid, little man?" he asked, stooping
down beside him.

"Sometimes," answered the boy, with a shy smile,
"when the rats make too much noise. But nearly every
night, when sister goes out, Molt-her Geehan stays a while
with me, and tells me funny stories. I'm not often
afraid, sir."

"This brave little gentleman," said Father Rogan, "is
a scholar of mine. Every day from half-past six to half-
past eight -- when sister comes for him -- he stops in
my study, and we find out what's in the inside of books.
He knows multiplication, division and fractions; and
he's troubling me to begin wid the chronicles of Ciaran
of Clonmaciioise, Corurac McCullenan and Cuan O'Loc-
hain, the gr-r-reat Irish histhorians." The boy was
evidently accustomed to the priest's Celtic pleasantries.
A little, appreciative grin was all the attention the insin-
nation of pedantry received.

Lorison, to have saved his life, could not have put to
the child one of those vital questions that were wildly
beating about, unanswered, in his own brain. The little
fellow was very like Norah; he had the same shining
hair and candid eyes.

"Oh, Father Denny," cried the boy, suddenly, "I
forgot to tell you! Sister is not going away at night any
more! She told me so when she kissed me good night as
she was leaving. And she said she was so happy, and
then she cried. Wasn't that queer? But I'm glad;
aren't you?"

"Yes, lad. And now, ye omadhaun, go to sleep, and
say good night; we must be going."

"Which shall I do first, Father Denny?"

"Faith, he's caught me again! Wait till I get the
sassenach into the annals of Tageruach, the hagiographer;
I'll give him enough of the Irish idiom to make him more

The light was out, and the small, brave voice bidding
them good night from the dark room. They groped
downstairs, and tore away from the garrulity of Mother

Again the priest steered them through the dim ways,
but this time in another direction. His conductor was
serenely silent, and Lorison followed his example to the
extent of seldom speaking. Serene he could not be. His
heart beat suffocatingly in his breast. The following of
this blind, menacing trail was pregnant with he knew not
what humiliating revelation to be delivered at its end.

They came into a more pretentious street, where trade,
it could be surmised, flourished by day. And again the
priest paused; this time before a lofty building, whose
great doors and windows in the lowest floor were carefully
shuttered and barred. Its higher apertures were dark,
save in the third story, the windows of which were bril-
liantly lighted. Lorison's ear caught a distant, regular,
pleasing thrumming, as of music above. They stood at
an angle of the building. Up, along the side nearest them,
mounted an iron stairway. At its top was an upright,
illuminated parallelogram. Father Rogan had stopped,
and stood, musing.

"I will say this much," he remarked, thoughtfully:
"I believe you to be a better man than you think yourself
to be, and a better man than I thought some hours ago.
But do not take this," he added, with a smile, "as much
praise. I promised you a possible deliverance from an
unhappy perplexity. I will have to modify that promise.
I can only remove the mystery that enhanced that per-
plexity. Your deliverance depends upon yourself.

He led his companion up the stairway. Halfway up,
Lorison caught him by the sleeve. "Remember," he
gasped, "I love that woman."

"You desired to know.

"I -- Go on."

The priest reached the landing at the top of the stairway.
Lorison, behind him, saw that the illuminated space was
the glass upper half of a door opening into the lighted
room. The rhythmic music increased as they neared
it; the stairs shook with the mellow vibrations.

Lorison stopped breathing when he set foot upon the
highest step, for the priest stood aside, and motioned him
to look through the glass of the door.

His eye, accustomed to the darkness, met first a blind-
ing glare, and then he made out the faces and forms of
many people, amid an extravagant display of splendid
robings -- billowy laces, brilliant-hued finery, ribbons,
silks and misty drapery. And then he caught the mean.
ing of that jarring hum, and he saw the tired, pale, happy
face of his wife, bending, as were a score of others, over
her sewing machine -- toiling, toiling. Here was the
folly she pursued, and the end of his quest.

But not his deliverance, though even then remorse
struck him. His shamed soul fluttered once more before
it retired to make room for the other and better one.
For, to temper his thrill of joy, the shine of the satin and
the glimmer of ornaments recalled the disturbing figure
of the bespangled Amazon, and the base duplicate histories
it by the glare of footlights and stolen diamonds. It is
past the wisdom of him who only sets the scenes, either to
praise or blame the man. But this time his love over-
came his scruples. He took a quick step, and reached
out his hand for the doorknob. Father Rogan was
quicker to arrest it and draw him back.

"You use my trust in you queerly," said the priest
sternly. "What are you about to do?"

"I am going to my wife," said Lorison. "Let me pass."

"Listen," said the priest, holding him firmly by the
arm. "I am about to put you in possession of a piece of
knowledge of which, thus far, you have scarcely proved
deserving. I do not think you ever will; but I will not
dwell upon that. You see in that room the woman you
married, working for a frugal living for herself, and a
generous comfort for an idolized brother. This building
belongs to the chief costumer of the city. For months the
advance orders for the coming Mardi Gras festivals have
kept the work going day and night. I myself secured
employment here for Norah. She toils here each night
from nine o'clock until daylight, and, besides, carries
home with her some of the finer costumes, requiring more
delicate needlework, and works there part of the day.
Somehow, you two have remained strangely ignorant of
each other's lives. Are you convinced now that your
wife is not walking the streets?"

"Let me go to her," cried Lorison, again struggling,
"and beg her forgiveness!'

"Sir," said the priest, "do you owe me nothing? Be
quiet. It seems so often that Heaven lets fall its choicest
gifts into hands that must be taught to hold them. Listen
again. You forgot that repentant sin must not comprom-
ise, but look up, for redemption, to the purest and best.
You went to her with the fine-spun sophistry that peace
could be found in a mutual guilt; and she, fearful of losing
what her heart so craved, thought it worth the price to
buy it with a desperate, pure, beautiful lie. I have known
her since the day she was born; she is as innocent and
unsullied in life and deed as a holy saint. In that lowly
street where she dwells she first saw the light, and she
has lived there ever since, spending her days in generous
self-sacrifice for others. Och, ye spalpeen!" continued
Father Rogan, raising his finger in kindly anger at Lorison.
"What for, I wonder, could she be after making a fool
of hersilf, and shamin' her swate soul with lies, for the
like of you!"

"Sir," said Lorison, trembling, "say what you please
of me. Doubt it as you must, I will yet prove my gratitude
to you, and my devotion to her. But let me speak to her
once now, let me kneel for just one moment at her feet,
and -- "

"Tut, tut!" said the priest. "How many acts of a
love drama do you think an old bookworm like me capable
of witnessing? Besides, what kind of figures do we cut,
spying upon the mysteries of midnight millinery! Go
to meet your wife to-morrow, as she ordered you, and obey
her thereafter, and maybe some time I shall get forgive-
ness for the part I have played in this night's work. Off
wid yez down the shtairs, now! 'Tis late, and an ould
man like me should be takin' his rest."


"AUNT ELLEN," said Octavia, cheerfully, as she threw
her black kid gloves carefully at the dignified Persian cat
on the window-seat, "I'm a pauper."

"You are so extreme in your statements, Octavia,
dear," said Aunt Ellen, mildly, looking up from her paper.

"If you find yourself temporarily in need of some small
change for bonbons, you will find my purse in the drawer
of the writing desk."

Octavia Beaupree removed her hat and seated herself
on a footstool near her aunt's chair, clasping her hands
about her knees. Her slim and flexible figure, clad in a
modish mourning costume, accommodated itself easily
and gracefully to the trying position. Her bright and
youthful face, with its pair of sparkling, life-enamoured
eyes, tried to compose itself to the seriousness that the
occasion seemed to demand.

"You good auntie, it isn't a case of bonbons; it is abject,
staring, unpicturesque poverty, with ready-made clothes,
gasolined gloves, and probably one o'clock dinners all
waiting with the traditional wolf at the door. I've just
come from my lawyer, auntie, and, 'Please, ma'am, I
ain't got nothink 't all. Flowers, lady? Buttonhole,
gentleman? Pencils, sir, three for five, to help a poor
widow?' Do I do it nicely, auntie, or, as a bread-winner
accomplishment, were my lessons in elocution entirely

"Do be serious, my dear," said Aunt Ellen, letting her
paper fall to the floor, "long enough to tell me what you
mean. Colonel Beaupree's estate -- "

"Colonel Beaupree's estate," interrupted Octavia,
emphasizing her words with appropriate dramatic ges-
tures, "is of Spanish castellar architecture. Colonel
Beaupree's resources are -- wind. Colonel Beaupree's
stocks are -- water. Colonel Beaupree's income is --
all in. The statement lacks the legal technicalities to
which I have been listening for an hour, but that is what
it means when translated."

"Octavia!" Aunt Ellen was now visibly possessed by
consternation. "I can hardly believe it. And it was the
impression that he was worth a million. And the De
Peysters themselves introduced him!"

Octavia rippled out a laugh, and then became properly

"De mortuis nil, auntie -- not even the rest of it. The
dear old colonel -- what a gold brick he was, after all!
I paid for my bargain fairly -- I'm all here, am I not?
-- items: eyes, fingers, toes, youth, old family, unques-
tionable position in society as called for in the contract
no wild-cat stock here." Octavia picked up the
morning paper from the floor. "But I'm not going to
'squeal' -- isn't that what they call it when you rail at
Fortune because you've, lost the game?" She turned
the pages of the paper calmly. "'Stock market' -- no
use for that. 'Society's doings' -- that's done. Here is
my page -- the wish column. A Van Dresser could not
be said to 'want' for anything, of course. 'Chamber-
maids, cooks, canvassers, stenographers-"

"Dear," said Aunt Ellen, with a little tremor in her
voice, "please do not talk in that way. Even if your
affairs are in so unfortunate a condition, there is my three
thousand -- "

Octavia sprang up lithely, and deposited a smart kiss
on the delicate cheek of the prim little elderly maid.

"Blessed auntie, your three thousand is just sufficient
to insure your Hyson to be free from willow leaves and
keep the Persian in sterilized cream. I know I'd be
welcome, but I prefer to strike bottom like Beelzebub
rather than hang around like the Peri listening to the
music from the side entrance. I'm going to earn my own
living. There's nothing else to do. I'm a -- Oh, oh, oh!
-- I had forgotten. There's one thing saved from the
wreck. It's a corral -- no, a ranch in -- let me see --
Texas: an asset, dear old Mr. Bannister called it. How
pleased he was to show me something he could describe
as unencumbered! I've a description of it among those
stupid papers he made me bring away with me from his
office. I'll try to find it."

Octavia found her shopping-bag, and drew from it a
long envelope filled with typewritten documents.

"A ranch in Texas," sighed Aunt Ellen. "It sounds
to me more like a liability than an asset. Those are the
places where the centipedes are found, and cowboys,
and fandangos."

"'The Rancho de las Sombras,'" read Octavia from
a sheet of violently purple typewriting "'is situated one
hundred and ten miles southeast of San Antonio, and
thirty-eight miles from its nearest railroad station, Nopal,
on the I. and G. N. Ranch, consists of 7,680 acres of well-
watered land, with title conferred by State patents, and
twenty-two sections, or 14,080 acres, partly under yearly
running lease and partly bought under State's twenty-
year-purchase act. Eight thousand graded merino sheep,
with the necessary equipment of horses, vehicles and
general ranch paraphernalia. Ranch-house built of
brick, with six rooms comfortably furnished according to
the requirements of the climate. All within a strong
barbed-wire fence.

"'The present ranch manager seems to be competent
and reliable, and is rapidly placing upon a paying basis
a business that, in other hands, had been allowed to suffer
from neglect and misconduct.

"'This property was secured by Colonel Beaupree in a
deal with a Western irrigation syndicate, and the title
to it seems to be perfect. With careful management and
the natural increase of land values, it ought to be made
the foundation for a comfortable fortune for its owner.'"

When Octavia ceased reading, Aunt Ellen uttered
something as near a sniff as her breeding permitted.

"The prospectus," she said, with uncompromising
metropolitan suspicion, "doesn't mention the centipedes,
or the Indians. And you never did like mutton, Octavia.
I don't see what advantage you can derive from this --

But Octavia was in a trance. Her eyes were steadily
regarding something quite beyond their focus. Her lips
were parted, and her face was lighted by the kindling
furor of the explorer, the ardent, stirring disquiet of the
adventurer. Suddenly she clasped her hands together

"The problem solves itself, auntie," she cried. "I'm
going to that ranch. I'm going to live on it. I'm
going to learn to like mutton, and even concede the good
qualities of centipedes -- at a respectful distance. It's
just what I need. It's a new life that comes when my old
one is just ending. It's a release, auntie; it isn't a narrow-
ing. Think of the gallops over those leagues of prairies,
with the wind tugging at the roots of your hair, the com-
ing close to the earth and learning over again the stories
of the growing grass and the little wild flowers without
names! Glorious is what it will be. Shall I be a
shepherdess with a Watteau hat, and a crook to keep the
bad wolves from the lambs, or a typical Western ranch
girl, with short hair, like the pictures of her in the Sunday
papers? I think the latter. And they'll have my picture,
too, with the wild-cats I've slain, single-handed, hanging
from my saddle horn. 'From the Four Hundred to the
Flocks' is the way they'll headline it, and they'll print
photographs of the old Van Dresser mansion and the
church where I was married. They won't have my
picture, but they'll get an artist to draw it. I'll be wild
and woolly, and I'll grow my own wool."

"Octavia!" Aunt Ellen condensed into the one word
all the protests she was unable to utter.

"Don't say a word, auntie. I'm going. I'll see the
sky at night fit down on the world like a big butter-dish
cover, and I'll make friends again with the stars that I
haven't had a chat with since I was a wee child. I wish
to go. I'm tired of all this. I'm glad I haven't any
money. I could bless Colonel Beaupree for that ranch,
and forgive him for all his bubbles. What if the life will
be rough and lonely! I -- I deserve it. I shut my heart
to everything except that miserable ambition. I -- oh,
I wish to go away, and forget -- forget!"

Octavia swerved suddenly to her knees, laid her flushed
face in her aunt's lap, and shook with turbulent sobs.

Aunt Ellen bent over her, and smoothed the coppery-
brown hair.

"I didn't know," she said, gently; "I didn't know --
that. Who was it, dear?

When Mrs. Octavia Beaupree, née Van Dresser,
stepped from the train at Nopal, her manner lost, for the
moment, some of that easy certitude which had always
marked her movements. The town was of recent estab-
lishment, and seemed to have been hastily constructed of
undressed lumber and flapping canvas. The element
that had congregated about the station, though not
offensively demonstrative, was clearly composed of citizens
accustomed to and prepared for rude alarms.

Octavia stood on the platform, against the telegraph
office, and attempted to choose by intuition from the
swaggering, straggling string, of loungers, the manager
of the Rancho de las Sombras, who had been instructed
by Mr. Bannister to meet her there. That tall, serious,
looking, elderly man in the blue flannel shirt and white
tie she thought must be he. But, no; he passed by,
removing his gaze from the lady as hers rested on him,
according to the Southern custom. The manager, she
thought, with some impatience at being kept waiting,
should have no difficulty in selecting her. Young women
wearing the most recent thing in ash-coloured travelling
suits were not so plentiful in Nopal!

Thus keeping a speculative watch on all persons of
possible managerial aspect, Octavia, with a catching
breath and a start of surprise, suddenly became aware of
Teddy Westlake hurrying along the platform in the
direction of the train -- of Teddy Westlake or his sun-
browned ghost in cheviot, boots and leather-girdled hat
-- Theodore Westlake, Jr., amateur polo (almost)
champion, all-round butterfly and cumberer of the soil;
but a broader, surer, more emphasized and determined
Teddy than the one she had known a year ago when last
she saw him.

He perceived Octavia at almost the same time, deflected
his course, and steered for her in his old, straightforward
way. Something like awe came upon her as the strange-
ness of his metamorphosis was brought into closer range;
the rich, red-brown of his complexion brought out so
vividly his straw-coloured mustache and steel-gray eyes.
He seemed more grown-up, and, somehow, farther away.
But, when he spoke, the old, boyish Teddy came back
again. They had been friends from childhood.

"Why, 'Tave!" he exclaimed, unable to reduce
his perplexity to coherence. " How -- what -- when --

"Train," said Octavia; "necessity; ten minutes ago;
home. Your complexion's gone, Teddy. Now, how --
what -- when -- where?"

"I'm working down here," said Teddy. He cast side
glances about the station as one does who tries to combine
politeness with duty.

"You didn't notice on the train," he asked, "an old
lady with gray curls and a poodle, who occupied two
seats with her bundles and quarrelled with the conductor,
did you?"

"I think not," answered Octavia, reflecting. "And
you haven't, by any chance, noticed a big, gray-mustached
man in a blue shirt and six-shooters, with little flakes of
merino wool sticking in his hair, have you?"

"Lots of 'em," said Teddy, with symptoms of mental
delirium under the strain. Do you happen to know any
such individual?"

"No; the description is imaginary. Is your interest
in the old lady whom you describe a personal one?"

"Never saw her in my life. She's painted entirely
from fancy. She owns the little piece of property where I
earn my bread and butter - the Rancho de las Sombras.
I drove up to meet her according to arrangement with
her lawyer."

Octavia leaned against the wall of the telegraph office.
Was this possible? And didn't he know?

"Are you the manager of that ranch?" she asked

"I am," said Teddy, with pride.

"I am Mrs. Beaupree," said Octavia faintly; "but my
hair never would curl, and I was polite to the conductor."

For a moment that strange, grown-up look came back,
and removed Teddy miles away from her.

"I hope you'll excuse me," he said, rather awkwardly.
"You see, I've been down here in the chaparral a year.
I hadn't heard. Give me your checks, please, and I'll
have your traps loaded into the wagon. José will follow
with them. We travel ahead in the buckboard."

Seated by Teddy in a feather-weight buckboard, behind
a pair of wild, cream-coloured Spanish ponies, Octavia
abandoned all thought for the exhilaration of the present.
They swept out of the little town and down the level road
toward the south. Soon the road dwindled and dis-
appeared, and they struck across a world carpeted with
an endless reach of curly mesquite grass. The wheels
made no sound. The tireless ponies bounded ahead at
an unbroken gallop. The temperate wind, made fragrant
by thousands of acres of blue and yellow wild flowers,
roared gloriously in their ears. The motion was aërial,
ecstatic, with a thrilling sense of perpetuity in its effect.
Octavia sat silent, possessed by a feeling of elemental,
sensual bliss. Teddy seemed to be wrestling with some
internal problem.

"I'm going to call you madama," he announced as the
result of his labours. "That is what the Mexicans will
call you -- they're nearly all Mexicans on the ranch,
you know. That seems to me about the proper thing."

"Very well, Mr. Westlake," said Octavia, primly.

"Oh, now," said Teddy, in some consternation, "that's
carrying the thing too far, isn't it?"

"Don't worry me with your beastly etiquette. I'm
just beginning to live. Don't remind me of anything
artificial. If only this air could be bottled! This much
alone is worth coming for. Oh, look I there goes a deer!"

"Jack-rabbit," said Teddy, without turning his head.

"Could I -- might I drive?" suggested Octavia, pant-
ing, with rose-tinted cheeks and the eye of an eager child.

"On one condition. Could I -- might I smoke? "

"Forever!" cried Octavia, taking the lines with solemn
joy. "How shall I know which way to drive?"

"Keep her sou' by sou'east, and all sail set. You see
that black speck on the horizon under that lowermost
Gulf cloud? That's a group of live-oaks and a land-
mark. Steer halfway between that and the little hill to
the left. I'll recite you the whole code of driving rules
for the Texas prairies: keep the reins from under the
horses' feet, and swear at 'em frequent."

"I'm too happy to swear, Ted. Oh, why do people
buy yachts or travel in palace-cars, when a buckboard
and a pair of plugs and a spring morning like this can
satisfy all desire?"

"Now, I'll ask you," protested Teddy, who was futilely
striking match after match on the dashboard, "not to
call those denizens of the air plugs. They can kick out
a hundred miles between daylight and dark." At last
he succeeded in snatching a light for his cigar from the
flame held in the hollow of his hands.

"Room!" said Octavia, intensely. "That's what
produces the effect. I know now what I've wanted --
scope -- range -- room! "

"Smoking-room," said Teddy, unsentimentally. "I
love to smoke in a buckboard. The wind blows the smoke
into you and out again. It saves exertion."

The two fell so naturally into their old-time goodfellow-
ship that it was only by degrees that a sense of the strange-
ness of the new relations between them came to be felt.

"Madama," said Teddy, wonderingly, "however did
you get it into your bead to cut the crowd and come down
here? Is it a fad now among the upper classes to trot
off to sheep ranches instead of to Newport?"

"I was broke, Teddy," said Octavia, sweetly, with her
interest centred upon steering safely between a Spanish
dagger plant and a clump of chaparral; "I haven't a
thing in the world but this ranch -- not even any other
home to go to."

"Come, now," said Teddy, anxiously but ineredu-
lously, "you don't mean it?"

"When my husband," said Octavia, with a shy slurring
of the word, "died three months ago I thought I had a
reasonable amount of the world's goods. His lawyer
exploded that theory in a sixty-minute fully illustrated
lecture. I took to the sheep as a last resort. Do you
happen to know of any fashionable caprice among the
gilded youth of Manhattan that induces them to abandon
polo and club windows to become managers of sheep

"It's easily explained in my case," responded Teddy,
promptly. "I had to go to work. I couldn't have earned
my board in New York, so I chummed a while with old
Sandford, one of the syndicate that owned the ranch before
Colonel Beaupree bought it, and got a place down here.
I wasn't manager at first. I jogged around on ponies and
studied the business in detail, until I got all the points in
my head. I saw where it was losing and what the reme-
dies were, and then Sandford put me in charge. I get a
hundred dollars a month, and I earn it."

"Poor Teddy!" said Octavia, with a smile.

"You needn't. I like it. I save half my wages, and
I'm as hard as a water plug. It beats polo."

"Will it furnish bread and tea and jam for another out-
cast from civilization?"

"The spring shearing," said the manager, "just cleaned
up a deficit in last year's business. Wastefulness and
inattention have been the rule heretofore. The autumn
clip will leave a small profit over all expenses. Next
year there will be jam."

When, about four o'clock in the afternoon, the ponies
rounded a gentle, brush-covered hill, and then swooped,
like a double cream-coloured cyclone, upon the Rancho
de las Sombras, Octavia gave a little cry of delight. A
lordly grove of magnificent live-oaks cast an area of
grateful, cool shade, whence the ranch had drawn its
name, "de las Sombras" -- of the shadows. The house,
of red brick, one story, ran low and long beneath the trees.
Through its middle, dividing its six rooms in half, extended
a broad, arched passageway, picturesque with flowering
cactus and hanging red earthern jars. A "gallery," low
and broad, encircled the building. Vines climbed about
it, and the adjacent ground was, for a space, covered with
transplanted grass and shrubs. A little lake, long and
narrow, glimmered in the sun at the rear. Further away
stood the shacks of the Mexican workers, the corrals,
wool sheds and shearing pens. To the right lay the low
hills, splattered with dark patches of chaparral; to the
left the unbounded green prairie blending against the blue

"It's a home, Teddy," said Octavia, breathlessly;
that's what it is -- it's a home."

"Not so bad for a sheep ranch," admitted Teddy, with
excusable pride. "I've been tinkering on it at odd times."

A Mexican youth sprang from somewhere in the grass,
and took charge of the creams. The mistress and the
manager entered the house.

"Here's Mrs. MacIntyre," said Teddy, as a placid,
neat, elderly lady came out upon the gallery to meet
them. "Mrs. Mac, here's the boss. Very likely she
will be wanting a hunk of ham and a dish of beans after
her drive."

Mrs. MacIntyre, the housekeeper, as much a fixture
on the place as the lake or the live-oaks, received the
imputation of the ranch's resources of refreshment with
mild indignation, and was about to give it utterance when
Octavia spoke.

"Oh, Mrs. MacIntyre, don't apologize for Teddy.
Yes, I call him Teddy. So does every one whom he
hasn't duped into taking him seriously. You see, we
used to cut paper dolls and play jackstraws together ages
ago. No one minds what he says."

"No," said Teddy, "no one minds what he says, just
so he doesn't do it again."

Octavia cast one of those subtle, sidelong glances
toward him from beneath her lowered eyelids -- a glance
that Teddy used to describe as an upper-cut. But there
was nothing in his ingenuous, weather-tanned face to
warrant a suspicion that he was making an allusion --
nothing. Beyond a doubt, thought Octavia, he had

"Mr. Westlake likes his fun," said Mrs. Maclntyre, as
she conducted Octavia to her rooms. "But," she added,
loyally, "people around here usually pay attention to
what he says when he talks in earnest. I don't know
what would have become of this place without him."

Two rooms at the east end of the house had been
arranged for the occupancy of the ranch's mistress. When
she entered them a slight dismay seized her at their bare
appearance and the scantiness of their furniture; but she
quickly reflected that the climate was a semi-tropical one,
and was moved to appreciation of the well-conceived efforts
to conform to it. The sashes had already been removed
from the big windows, and white curtains waved in the
Gulf breeze that streamed through the wide jalousies.
The bare floor was amply strewn with cool rugs; the
chairs were inviting, deep, dreamy willows; the walls
were papered with a light, cheerful olive. One whole
side of her sitting room was covered with books on smooth,
unpainted pine shelves. She flew to these at once. Before
her was a well-selected library. She caught glimpses of
titles of volumes of fiction and travel not yet seasoned
from the dampness of the press.

Presently, recollecting that she was now in a wilderness
given over to mutton, centipedes and privations, the
incongruity of these luxuries struck her, and, with intuitive
feminine suspicion, she began turning to the fly-leaves of
volume after volume. Upon each one was inscribed in
fluent characters the name of Theodore Westlake, Jr.

Octavia, fatigued by her long journey, retired early
that night. Lying upon her white, cool bed, she rested
deliciously, but sleep coquetted long with her. She
listened to faint noises whose strangeness kept her faculties
on the alert -- the fractious yelping of the coyotes, the
ceaseless, low symphony of the wind, the distant booming
of the frogs about the lake, the lamentation of a concertina
in the Mexicans' quarters. There were many conflicting
feelings in her heart -- thankfulness and rebellion, peace
and disquietude, loneliness and a sense of protecting care,
happiness and an old, haunting pain.

She did what any other woman would have done --
sought relief in a wholesome tide of unreasonable tears,
and her last words, murmured to herself before slumber,
capitulating, came softly to woo her, were "He has

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